Pizzetti could be an immensely charming man but there was a horribly cantankerous side to his personality. Friendships he had held firm for decades would abruptly end as the result of one vehement outburst or a single snide remark. It was as a result of one such shattered friendship (with the composer Gian Francesco Malipiero) that Pizzetti composed one of his finest short choral works – a piece which inspired his most successful composition pupil, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, to describe Pizzetti as ‘without doubt the greatest vocal polyphonist Italy has had since the glorious fifteen-hundreds’. Malipiero had announced bitterly to the world the rift between Pizzetti and himself by publishing a pamphlet describing their argument and ending with the words: ‘Here endeth a friendship that started well but finished badly … de profundis clamavi.’ When, in 1937, that friendship was patched up both composers wrote a setting of Psalm 130, which begins with those Latin words, and dedicated their respective settings to each other. Pizzetti’s De profundis
, scored for seven-part unaccompanied choir begins, appropriately, with the lowest voices descending through simple, overlapping arpeggios. The upper voices emerge gradually, building up to a climax on ‘quis sustinebit?’ before subsiding to close this short, but profoundly beautiful work on a single note marked to be sung ppp
(as softly as possible).
from notes by Marc Rochester © 1998